Are you troubled by upsetting thoughts? Do you find it hard to see things positively? Do you dwell on the negative?
How can thinking traps affect our mental health? Sometimes we tell ourselves what we feel about a situation is actually what is happening. The situation can then become distorted, and we only focus on the negative aspects—this is normal and expected. However, when we interpret situations too negatively, and continue to do so we may feel worse. We are also more likely to respond to the situation in ways that are unhelpful in the long term. This type of thinking can be called unhealthy or unbalanced thinking.
Healthy thinking does not always mean positive thinking!! No one can look at things positively all the time. Sometimes bad things happen and it is normal to feel upset and have negative thoughts. Healthy thinking patterns means drawing out the positive, examining the negative, and the neutral parts and then making a conclusion about the whole situation in an informed way. In other words, healthy thinking means looking at situations in a balanced way, instead of looking at things in a negative way. We are most likely to distort our interpretation of things when we feel low, sad, angry, anxious, depressed or stressed.
Here are some of the most common thinking traps
Thinking that a negative situation is just one of a never-ending cycle of bad things that happen. People who over generalize use words like “always” or “never” in their thinking
If it’s raining on the day you want to go for a bike ride, you might say: “Great! This always happens to me. Whenever I want to do something fun, something always happens to spoil it!”
Black and White Thinking
Seeing things as either right or wrong, good or bad, perfect or terrible. People who think in black and white terms see a small mistake as a total failure.
If you are trying to make healthy eating choices and you have one bite from a piece of cake, a black and white thought might be: “Well, my healthy eating plan is a complete failure. I might as well eat the whole cake now.
Catastrophising occurs when we look to the future and anticipate all the things that are going to go wrong.
You are driving and you anticipate that all the traffic lights will be on red therefore making you late. You start to get stressed which makes you catastrophise more
Predicting that something bad will happen, without any evidence
If you are going to a party, you think: “I know no one will talk to me at the party, and I’ll have a terrible time.” Maybe you are about to take a test or exam and you think: “I am going to fail.”
Telling yourself how you “should” or “must” act or think.
If you are having problems coping with a very difficult situation, you are too hard on yourself and think: “I should be able to handle this without getting upset and crying.”
Focusing on the negative in a situation, and ignoring the good.
If you went to a party and talked to five different people, but one person didn’t talk to you, you think: “There must be something wrong with me. That guy didn’t talk to me.” In this example, you are forgetting about all the people who did talk to you.